When the Legends Die may be Borland's most celebrated book, for good reason. In it, he tells the story of a boy who takes a long time to come to grips with the realities of his life. Raised in the "old ways" of the Ute Indians, American culture is alien to him when he is tricked and captured and forced to attend a reservation school after living alone in the wilderness for nearly two years. As an early adolescent, he already was set in the ways of the Utes before they were absorbed into America's culture. After many travails, he becomes a great rodeo star. This is where many young adult novels would end, but in When the Legends Die, Borland shows how the experiences of the boy's youth play themselves out in a man who is famous and admired, but who is nonetheless angry all the time and hateful toward others. His eventual rediscovery of the old ways and his mainly reconciliation of his past with the realties of American life is grand and profound.
(The entire section is 176 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of When the Legends Die Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Part I: Bessie
When the Legends Die begins in the company town of Pagosa, Colorado, where the protagonist’s father, George Black Bull, a Native American of the Ute tribe, works at a sawmill. George enters the scene running. He is being sought after because he has killed Frank No Deer, a common thief. George is afraid that he will be put in jail, so he tells his wife where he is going in the wilderness and tells her to follow him after dark. His wife, Bessie, when asked by the sheriff if she knows where her husband is, denies knowing. As she waits for nightfall, Bessie thinks back on how she and her husband and son ended up in Pagosa. Then, in the middle of the night, she packs a few belongings, wakes her young son, and takes a circuitous route to the location of the planned rendezvous with her husband.
In the wilderness, George and Bessie return to their traditional ways, capturing meat, finding seeds, and picking berries for food. They make clothes and a shelter from the natural materials that they gather. They sing songs and tell stories that their grandparents had taught them. At the end of the first year, before the winter has ended, George is trapped and killed in an avalanche.
Before the next winter, Bessie takes Thomas back to Pagosa to buy supplies. Bessie is an expert basket maker and trades her wares for the winter clothing and the utility items that she needs. She worries that the sheriff is still looking for her...
(The entire section is 1827 words.)